For some (me included!) a holiday is about total indulgence. It is about experiencing the local foods, enjoying a sundowner (or 5!), and not saying ‘no thanks’ to dessert. But – there comes a time when our bodies begin to feel gluggy (it is a real word!), bloated, clogged, and just not on top form. Add lazy days on a safari to the mix, and it all just multiplies! SO – if you keep a regular fitness routine at home, and you’d like to continue while you’re on your safari… READ ON!
Lets talk FOOD first.
The truth is, keeping fit while you’re on a safari isn’t hard at all. In fact, a lot of the lodges are able to easily cater to dietary requests! Low carb diet? No problem. Vegetarian? No worries at all! Gluten free? Easy. Low fat? No worries!
The majority of lodges are able to provide you with meals to suit whatever regime you are on – be it for medical reasons, or pure health reasons.
On any normal day for breakfast, you will most likely be looking at an array of healthy (and not so healthy) options to fill up on after your morning safari. At most of my visits, I’ve had all or at least some of the below:
Fresh whole and cut fruit
Plain and flavored yogurts (full fat and low fat options)
An array of different breads – usually at least brown and white bread
A selection of cereals; Muesli and cornflakes are generally a staple
Cooked options such as sausages, bacon, savory mince, scrambled/fried eggs (or, at some lodges, eggs made to order how you like), pancakes, hash browns, baked beans, and so on.
Most lodges offer buffet breakfasts, which allow you the opportunity to choose what you would like on your plate, which assists in staying healthy while on safari.
When it comes to lunch, some lodges present plated meals, whilst others stick to the buffet style. For lunches, it really varies from lodge to lodge – so let us take a look at some of the options I’ve experienced;
Pre made wraps (usually either chicken strips, tuna, or beef strips – plated)
An array of salads (garden salads, coleslaw, broccoli/cauliflower salad, bean salads)
Fresh breads and fresh bread rolls
Cous-Cous – either plain or with some cooked veggies mixed in
Again, a lot of good healthy options you can choose from if your meal is not plated.
As dinner comes around, again it is up to the lodge whether you have a pre-plated meal, or a buffet. At some lodges, you will have an option for plated meals – think fancy ‘chicken or beef’ style. Here are some of the dinner meals I’ve had;
Game meat (Kudu, impala, warthog) – this isn’t a forced thing, but most of the time the option is given for those who would like to try local meat
A TONNE of varied and healthy salads
As you can see, the meals that are offered can easily be chosen to suit any diet (if not already pre-prepared to suit yours). Of course there is still dessert after this (think fried bananas in filo pastry with melted chocolate, chocolate mousse, melktart, cheesecake etc).
For me personally, it is not the meals that make it harder to be healthy, but it is the ‘in between’ meals part – the morning + afternoon game drive stops for coffee or sundowners – and the tasty accompaniemants, not to mention the ‘pre game drive’ early morning coffee & snacks, or afternoon coffee and snacks before one heads out into the wild.
This is where I find the least healthy options offered. Usually, for the morning snacks, you’re looking at biscuits, rusks (a South African hard baked dunking biscuit), muffins and so on. All carbs and all sugar. In the afternoon, you’re looking at the same as the above before you head out on drive – but the mid game drive sundowner/snack stop brings chips (crisps), pretzel mix, and more savory items. Usually though, the lodge does at least offer a mixed nuts selection or some biltong – both which would be the healthier alternative to the other sugary snacks. Agian, you can just request your lodge to have some healthier items available for you – if you give them enough time to prepare (and you’re not TOO picky!), most lodges will happily assist. Otherwise, you can of course bring your own snacks too.
NOW – let us talk about the other side of health – EXERCISE!
More and more lodges are becoming more conscious of the shifting energy of their guests – health is becoming more important to a lot more people. I am finding a lot of lodges either adding an on-site gym to their offerings, or updating their existing gyms. Some lodges that already have great fitness facilities are Senalala Luxury Safari Camp (Klaserie), King’s Camp (Timbavati), and Ulusaba (Sabi Sands). These gyms all stock great equipment, varying from treadmills or spin bikes to cross trainers, free weights and steps, weight machines and more.
There is ample time for a good workout, as you will have ‘free time’ from around 10am (after breakkie) to around 2pm (before lunch) to with what you wish. Nap, read, watch for animals, chat to your ranger as they thrill you with stories of the wild, take a dip in the pool, get a massage or – you guessed it- start sweating in the gym :-).
Other options also include running sprints if your lodge has a big enough lawn, or perhaps engaging in a yoga session (if your lodge has a gym, chances are they have mats) with a gorgeous view. There are some fantastic yoga apps you can download (there are some great ones for free too!), or you can give me a shout (I’m a yoga teacher!) and I can come to the lodge and lead you through a session.
Lastly, you can choose a lodge that specializes in walking safaris, which means you will be active for a good hour or two each day on a walk out in the wild.
In short, it is very easy to keep up your fitness and health routine while enjoying the magic of the Wild.
Choose a lodge with a gym, or fitness equipment, or a large enough property/lawn for you to run sprints (provided the lodge is fenced! You don’t want to entice any lions, haha!)
Let your lodge know about your diet/lifestyle long before you arrive, so they have time to speak to you about options, and to prepare your snacks/meals.
If you’re really concerned, pack your own snacks to ensure health at all times!
**I just love this lion pic – Photographer unknown – please let me know if it it was you!?
For any questions, send us an email at email@example.com and I will be happy to help.
“THE TRUEST WAY TO FEEL THE HEARTBEAT OF AFRICA, IS THROUGH THE SOLES OF YOUR FEET”
A Walking Safari Experience with James Steyn
Senalala Luxury Safari Camp, Klaserie Reserve, Greater Kruger.
Experiencing a driving safari, comfortably seated in a large metal vehicle is a wonderful experience. You’re safe, smiling happily as a lion walks next to you, snapping away with your camera, hoping he will turn his scarred grizzly face toward you, so you can get that perfect photograph. And – there it is – his eyes lock into yours for a moment, and you instinctively sink a little deeper into your Land Cruiser seat, forgetting about your photo, thankful for the metal between you and one of Africa’s most dangerous predators.
You’re secretly relieved as the ranger turns the key, and you feel the comforting shake of the game drive vehicle as you bounce toward your next sighting.
But, when approaching some of Africa’s most dangerous animals on foot WITHOUT the protection or security of a game drive vehicle to lull you into a sense of safety, the quality of your guide is the crucial factor in deciding whether you will come back alive or not. Any guide can take a bushwalk, but it takes a ranger of real standard to lead a true walking safari, and a log of over 11,000 walking hours in Big 5 territory is near impossible to beat.
Hidden away in the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve of the Greater Kruger lies one of the most authentic safari camps I have ever come across. Overlooking a wide portion of the Ntsiri River, Senalala Luxury Safari Camp is one of a kind. Priding themselves in a ‘real’ safari experience, the team are determined to offer everything a safari is supposed to be about, with a focus on keeping it wild.
Calling this camp home for the last 12 years is James Steyn, who is the head guide and camp manager along with his team mate and wife Corlia. With one of only 9 Scout badges (a highly qualified, experienced and trained Dangerous Game Specialist) in the entire country, along with his impressive walking hours, James is undoubtedly the ‘go to guide’ for an in depth walking safari experience.
As I drove through the thick Mopani trees and wound my way to Senalala’s main camp gates, I was a little nervous for what the day would hold. Approaching giraffe and zebra is one thing, and I have done that many times on a bushwalk at various lodge within the Kruger, but today’s activity was going to be distinctly different. I knew that when it came to James, lions were his favorite to approach on foot. This may be due to the 179 trails he led while in the Sweni area of the Kruger – famous for their man eating lions that roamed the plains – but as we began speaking, he admitted the reason behind his choice.
“Lions are a big part of Africa – for many guests, it is the one animal they love to see. So when we can safely and successfully have an on foot experience with a pride or even just a solo lion, the guests all have these unbeatable smiles on their faces –and that makes me feel like I have done my job properly.”
“This job,” James continued as he offered me freshly brewed 6am coffee, “is just as much about the people as it is about the animals. You have to be able to read your guests in a way that will enable you to give them the best experience – what they’ve flown halfway around the world for. And if you can achieve that, you’ve done well.”
As we began to get comfortable on the cushioned couches, and as they teased my bush walking outfit (jeans and CAT boots – what’s a girl to do?!), Lize (one of the trainee rangers) ran toward us, announcing quietly that one of the lions they’d seen late the night before was back at the waterhole.
Grabbing my camera, I followed the team out onto the wooden viewing deck, and strained my eyes in the early morning light, pretending to see the male lion that they were all viewing. I nodded slowly, trying to look like I was simply looking from side to side while the others were all chatting about what he might have been up to since they’d seen him last.
Then, just like in the movies, my eyes landed upon his massive mane, golden dawn light washing through the strands as he walked swiftly into the clearing. If he’d been a human, he would have been Arnold Schwarzenegger. Tawny skin covered strong and lean muscle, and though he stepped quietly and softly as he walked, it seemed as if you were near enough to him, you might just feel the earth move with each step he took. We observed him for a few moments, and I listened to the bush gossip – it was actually a different male lion, a new one to the area, pushed so far out of his normal territory because of the drought. The team around me concluded that he was walking so quickly because he’d sniffed the females in the area. Men!
As he disappeared into the bush, I followed James, Corlia, and the owner of Senalala back into the lounge to continue our discussion. The owner is a South African born business man, who has found the secret to a successful working partnership – empowering his staff.
“As the owner – it is really important to empower the people who you work with. Actually, the most important thing is your staff. I have a really powerful team.” He says humbly.
As the owner and I sat chatting a little more, James reappeared, his rifle resting lightly over his shoulder. He asked us politely but urgently to follow him – the lion was back. I paused for a second, knowing that rifle-on-shoulder-and-walking-boots-on-feet meant it was time to move. I also knew that a lion out there meant James was about to lead me into an experience I’d never undertaken before.
As we left the security of Senalala Lodge behind and made our way into the wild, approaching the wide dry riverbed, James stopped a few meters out of the gate and turned toward us. Had we found the lion already?
He placed the butt of his rifle into the river sand, his eyes sweeping across the open plain, and darting underneath every bush. He lowered his voice, signalling us all to come closer.
“I need you to stand directly behind me at all times, one behind each other, close together in single file. You’re welcome to ask questions, but please try and keep a quiet voice.” James said rather seriously, not helping the racing heart in my chest. For someone who had lived and worked in the bush for almost 6 years, I was suddenly terrified. I nodded hard, said my prayers to the Universe and prepared to set off.
As we took off at a rather quick pace, I made damn sure I stepped directly into the footsteps James left in front of me, probably closer to him than society would deem appropriate. But when your life is in the hands of someone, you do exactly what they tell you. I watched as he took an odd looking plastic bottle out of his pocket, unscrewing the lid with his mouth. He squeezed the bottle slightly, watching it intently as a white powder blew out of it and into the wind. We paused for a moment as he assessed the powder. Not only does a walking safari guide need to focus on tracking game and presenting his guests with sightings – in fact, that is the least of his worries – but he needs to have an in depth knowledge of his surroundings and the animals that call it home. Which way is the wind blowing? Where were the lions last night? When did they last eat? Do they have offspring – and if so, how old are they?? In this case, James was checking where the wind was coming from, and where it was going to.
James put his bottle away and changed direction slightly, managing to dodge bushes and shrubs all while surveying the land and keeping an eye on the walkers-in-tow behind him. My body began to heat up as we crunched through the bush, and I felt like a rookie as I managed to get snagged on almost every thorn that James had so professionally avoided. Swearing under my breath, I vowed to be more careful each time, and failed each time.
I’m not going to lie to you – I pretended to be hard-core and fearless, excited about the idea about meeting Nala, Simba and Mufasa on foot – and I suppose I was, underneath my fear – but in reality, I was terrified.
Naturally, our logical brain begins to question how smart this decision is in regards to how it will affect the outcome of our survival. But, when offered the opportunity of a lifetime to experience the primality of a walking safari, I couldn’t refuse. There is no other ranger I would trust to the extent that I trust James – and in my opinion and experience – he is the industry leader in walking safaris. His relaxed nature is balanced by his extreme attention to the task when he leads the walks.
“During a walk I stay focused and have an exceptionally high level of situational awareness. If I don’t have a specific purpose like tracking or approaching an animal, I look for things to present themselves to talk about. Throughout the walk I always stay sensitive to the environment, the animals, the people, and most importantly, myself. I let my experience guide me instead of trying to guide an experience.” James says, explaining how he assesses his approach to a trail.
Throughout our walk, I saw him put this into practice in a way that only an experienced old hand could do.
Not only was he extremely aware of us all, making sure we understood what we were doing, but throughout the trail he continuously assessed and re-assessed our movements, interpreted the environment around us, and stopped to teach us interesting bits and pieces about the bush along the way.
As we got thicker into the bush and the lodge was long out of sight, a subconscious shift began within. And, as we trekked deeper into the wild, something primal began to take over.
I found myself less in my head, and more in my gut. Thoughts about getting eaten alive and making sure I exactly in the footsteps that were laid in front of me began to be replaced by a keener sense of what was happening around me.
Though my heart was still pumped by a healthy fear, a growing sense of calm begin to present itself. The internal chatter stilled.
We all fell into step with James effortlessly, and walked in silence as he continued to navigate pathways around thick thorn bushes and crumbling termite mounds. I watched as he constantly scanned the environment, and wondered if his eyes were able to move different directions at once. Just as I felt comfortable with what was happening, James stopped suddenly, raising his hand in a calm manner.
“There.” He whispered, pointing toward a curve in the road no more than 20 meters in front of us. Frozen in my half paced walk, my boots glued to the red earth, my eyes immediately fell upon him. A young male lion stared back at us, the white underlining of his eye catching the early morning sun. He blended perfectly into the bush that surrounded him. So did his siblings – who I hadn’t noticed yet – but that James naturally had.
“Do you see the others?” He asked us quietly, his voice blending effortlessly into the background noise of the bush. I craned my neck around James’ shoulder, not sure where I should be looking, when the others began poking their heads curiously out of the thorn bush. Whether I swore out loud or only in my head, only one word starting with an F summed up the insane amount of adrenaline that was rushing through my body.
There are rare moments in life that require intense exhilaration to be balanced with total peace, presence and calm – and this was one of them. For what felt like hours, we were in an experience that made me feel more alive than I had in years. It was an odd emotion, feeling my body switch to survival mode – blood pumping in my ears, tight chest, and sweaty palms – but not wanting to move in case I missed even a second of this “out of this world” moment. Being mere meters from 8 lions, with no physical boundaries between you and their teeth is a once in a lifetime experience.
As we watched the pride become more relaxed, James motioned for us to drop a little lower. Automatically we listened to his instruction, dropping slowly onto our haunches as a few of the more curious lions began to approach us, their huge padded paws stepping gently onto the sand that covered the road.
There it was – the moment I’d been terrified to witness. But, instead of freaking out like I assumed I would do, I felt completely at ease. James’ total awareness of the situation allowed me to relax into the experience, knowing at a deep level that I was totally safe with him.
It was in that moment, as the lions trotted happily toward us, that I understood the most important factor when it came to enjoying a successful and safe walking safari – and that is the quality of your guide. I soaked in the present moment, allowing myself to be truly humbled by what stood before me – Africa’s icon animal, the King of the Jungle, the fearsome predator – as curious about me as I was about them.
James instructed us in a hushed voice to slowly get up and start walking away, and we again listened without hesitation. Though I didn’t look, I sensed him stay behind for a few moments longer, ensuring we were safely headed on our way while he kept an eye on the curious pride. It wasn’t until he asked me how I felt about the experience that I knew he was back with us.
As we left the lions exactly how we found them, I was grateful to have had such a natural experience. Our presence didn’t affect the behavior of the lions, who were only inquisitive toward us. I think that is what sets James – and Senalala – so apart from everything else. James is not a hotelier, with thousands of hours of hotel management experience – James is man naturally born to be in this role, who steps into his ‘job’ so effortlessly that you wonder how he could ever be anything else. You can’t help but admire the deep level of knowledge and experience of all things wild that James offers.
As we left the lions comfortably behind, and a level of normality returned to our group, I asked James what makes a walking safari guide different from any other guide –what, in his opinion, guests should look for when choosing a lodge based on their walking safari experiences.
“Well,” he said, resting his rifle on his shoulder again, “A lot of average, or not so experienced guides can lead a really great bush walk. But it takes an experienced, well rounded, bush orientated person to lead a successful walking safari. There are the legal requirements of course – as set out by the National department of tourism – but when it comes down to it, the longer you’ve done it the more successful you’re going to be.” After having just experienced what we did, I couldn’t agree with him more. James used his knowledge to create such an intense sighting for us, and this understanding of the wild and the animals that call it home can only come from years (and YEARS!) of experience.
“If you just want to plod along and see a butterfly and an impala and one tree – a Trails Guide qualification is absolutely fine, and this is of course where we all start – with around 150 to 300 hours on foot logged… That’s ok for a bushwalk. Once a guide gets to 500 hours, then you start to see the guide begin coming into their own. Becoming confident. Then, there’s a huge difference between being confident in leading your walks, and being comfortable to lead the walks.”
As Senalala’s thatched roof came into view across the wide open riverbed, and I got a whiff of the delicious breakfast being cooked, I pondered what James meant – the difference between confident and being comfortable.
I guessed that it came down to the amount of times you’ve pushed yourself out of that comfort zone in order to grow. We can’t become comfortable in a situation until we’ve done it time and time again, or until we’ve been faced with overcoming challenges we hadn’t previously encountered before. And that’s where the hours, the weeks, the months and the years come in – in this case, the hard work of putting one foot in front of another, meeting hundreds of different animals, encountering a different situation each time you step out of the lodge, having to make decisions in a split second, all while looking after guests and ensuring the safety of those around you.
MOST COMMON MISTAKES MADE ON SAFARI… And how to avoid them!
When visiting the reserve of your dreams, you want to make sure that you adhere to all of the norms, right?
If you want to gain respect from your fellow guests and even your game ranger, check out these common mistakes – and make sure to avoid them!
1. DISTURBING WILDLIFE
As tempting as it may be to whistle or ‘ksss ksss’ at that big male lion while he is chowing down on that delicious zebra so you can get your Photo of the Month, we need to remember never to disturb the wildlife in their natural environment.
This is for a few different reasons. For example, in a lion case such as above, it could distract the dominant male, allowing a secondary male to seize the opportunity to feed, thus disrupting the natural hierarchy – this could cause a lot of trouble! Secondly, it is not a fun thing for other guests to experience – many would like to simply be in the moment, witnessing the wildlife instead of getting annoyed at the sound or movement of the distracter. Thirdly, and most importantly, it could land you in some serious trouble. The safari jeeps in the Kruger are open topped and open sided – there is not a lot between you and the animals.
I was once on a safari in the Pilanesberg, and we happened across three lionesses relaxing in next to the road. The guide stopped for us to view them, and one guest decided to stand up and call the nearest lioness. BOY, did she listen! She got up, and within seconds was close to the vehicle, with her eyes dangerously fixated on the guest. The guide drove us off at a high speed.
Remember that you are in THEIR domain, and we need to respect their comfort zones.
2. UNCONVENTIONAL CLOTHING
Whilst there is no real need to buy brand new ‘hollywood style’ safari outfits, there are some colors that should generally be avoided. This includes white, as the red dust of the earth often gathers on your safari outfits, and particularly on white! Bright colors should also be avoided, as even though many of the animals are color blind, it still plays a huge role in camoflauge.
Last August, we participated in a walk where a fellow guest wore a bright red head to toe track suit, which was quite distracting for the animals and for us.
Greens, olives, khakis and beiges are most recommended – but again there is really no pressure to go and buy new clothes!
On this note – high heels are also not needed on safari!!!! It makes getting in and out of the safari jeep seem like climbing Mt. Kiliminjaro!
On safari, comfort is key.
3. SLEEPING IN
I completely understand how tough it is to wake up at 4:30am, especially if you have only recently arrived at your lodge. But, believe me when I say it is COMPLETELY worth it.
In those last hours of darkness is when all the animals come out to play, especially those that are not seen often – hyena, leopard, porcupine, honey badger, civet, caracal, and so on. Even more so, the predators are all beginning to quite down, and one can often observe lions and other carnivores in a relaxed state.
Plus, you will have plenty of time between the hours of around 10 and 2 to relax and do whatever you please (sleeping, for many!), so rather use your safari time to its full potential.
4. NOT ASKING QUESTIONS
Every safari goer has to start somewhere. Be it your first, our four hundredth safari, questions are always welcomed by your guide or hosts. For many guests, a safari is a once in a lifetime experience, so we always encourage our guests to make the most of it. There is absolutely no such thing as a stupid question, and trust me when I say you’ll regret not asking it.
5. FORGOING EXTRAS
I am not talking about extra cost activities, but more about options that are already included in your rate, such as bush walks or educational discussions that are there for you to do during your free time at your lodge.
Getting up close and personal with the wildlife on foot is an experience never to be missed, and you will often learn things on these walks that you would miss on a driving safari. Plus, it can make for great pictures!
6. BEING A BIG 5 DIEHARD
While this is a huge draw card for your safari experience, only focusing on the famous Big 5 (leopard, lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino) can make you easily miss out on ‘amazingness’ of the lesser known animals. Try and have a few animals in mind that you would like to see (should your ranger ask), but try to generally keep an open mind when it comes to sightings. Being in the bush and in the wilderness is about taking everything as it comes, and this includes game sightings. Even the common impala will have something interesting, unique and new to offer you.
Meal times on safari can often be a exciting, exhilarating adventure for your taste buds. However, sometimes it can be daunting too.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Usually very simple – cereal, salad, and steak, right? Not when you’re on safari…
Many of the lodges in South Africa pride themselves on delivering high quality taste explosions, prepared by trained and experienced chefs with a whole list of credentials behind their title. Some of the dishes that we have experienced during our travels are worthy of winning the title of Master Chef, and have us drooling for days after. However, to a first time safari goer, or an international guest not used to the more traditional flavors, one might ask themselves….What on EARTH is a bobotie, am I really going to eat an Impala, and WHY would I want to eat a tart made from.. MILK!?
If you are staying at a lodge for more than two nights, chances are you will experience a traditional South African meal. This can range from a relaxed braai, to something more formal such as a wild game platter. Let’s take a look at some of the traditional meals you can expect while on safari.
To the rest of the world, a braai is known as something similar to a barbeque, minus the gas. Traditionally, a braai is is set in a round or rectangular container, with a grill placed on top. Coals or wood are used to create a long lasting, hot fire. Meats such as steaks, boerewors (meat sausage with South African spices), peri-peri chicken (a popular chilli infusion) and lamb chops are ‘braaied’ upon the grill until cooked to perfection. Accompanying the meat are often ‘braai brookies’ which are small breads with a filling such as garlic or cheese inside, and are also braaied until the inside is perfectly melted. To compliment the meat and bread, salads or vegetable side dishes (such as potatoes or corn cooked in foil on the fire, or butternut and creamed spinach) are also served, along with many different sauces and chutneys to flavor your dish as you like.
Bobotie, at it’s most simple form, is a curried mince dish topped with a sort of savory ‘custard’. I don’t like to use the word custard, because it gives the wrong impression. It is basically an egg based topping, but doesn’t taste anything like it. Flavored with curry powder, Bobotie is often also mixed with dried fruit such as raisins, contrasting the curry nicely. There is no proper way to truly describe Bobotie, as the thought of eggs and raisins definitely can lend a gruesome idea, but believe me – this is NOT the case! Bobotie is a delicious dish, and I urge you all to try it if offered.
A traditional dessert, Milk tart (or melktart) comprises of a thin, sweet pastry base, and is filled with a delicious creamy mixture of milk, flour, sugar and eggs. Baked in the oven until set, it is sprinkled with cinnamon and is generally served chilled.
Malva pudding, also a dessert, is served fresh out of the oven all warm and moist. It is a spongy and sweet treat, made with apricot jam and served with custard or ice cream. Mm, mm, mmmm!
Biltong is a type of cured meat, very traditional to South Africa. It is often served on game drives along with other snacks to keep you replenished on your safaris. Biltong is generally made from beef, and spiced with salt, pepper, sugar and other flavorings. For the more adventurous, game meat such as kudu, impala, warthog, hippo, giraffe and ostrich can also be found.
While there are many traditional meals served to give guests an opportunity to try the local cuisine, they do not make up the majority of the menu. There are many Western dishes also served, along with other foods from all over the world.
Deciding between the many accommodation options in the Greater Kruger area can be a very overwhelming task – will the lodge be right for you, and how do you know?
To start with, there are a few factors you can decide on that will help you to narrow down some choices!
1. Do you want a tented camp, traditional chalet, or something else?
Tented camps are not literally tents in the middle of a field, but more luxury canvas with incredible comfort inside; large beds, beautiful decorations, a ‘luxury’ experience.
The draw card of a tented camp is the completely wild aspect of it; Hardly anywhere else in the world can you sleep under canvas with wild animals all around you. Listening to the roar of lions through material is unbeatable.
If this all sounds a little too wild for you, never fear – Traditional chalets are also on offer. Usually made of brick, and sometimes coated (and sometimes left natural), traditional chalets are often thatched and offer a real feel of Africa. Otherwise, there are also mixtures of the two, such as nThambo Tree Camp, which offers tented walls but a thatched roof. Another option is something like Nottens Bush Camp, with a modern twist on the traditional.
2. Fenced, or unfenced?
This again relates to your level of wild comfort.
Fenced camps have a full fence around them, a ‘predator fence’, or an elephant fence designed to keep the mentioned animals out.
Alternatively, you can have no fences whatsoever, but be prepared for the wildlife to make your lodge home too!
3. Traversing area size?
Ok, now this is a very important question to think about when choosing your lodge.
A traversing area is where the lodge has permission to conduct their safaris. The sizes vary from 650 hectares all the way to 20,000 hectares.
The bigger the traversing area, the higher your chance is to see a large variety of game, as your safaris can cover more ground. This also means that the lodge will have more contact with other lodges & game rangers on safari, so they can share the animal gossip as to who is where.
For example, this allows your ranger to hear that there is a leopard in a tree on the other side of the area.
Size really does matter with a traversing area!
4. Dining quality
If you are looking for a fine dining experience, or prefer something more laid back, make sure you check what kind of food you will be served during your safari experience.
Fine dining often comes with the more expensive lodges, while the laid back & home cooked style is more of a rustic lodge choice.
If you’re keen on a party safari, it might be worth it to check if beverages are included in your rate. It could work out cheaper for you.
But, if you’re more of a one-glass-at-dinner kind of safari goer, then paying extra for unlimited drinks would be a waste for you.
What kind of extras do the lodges offer?
Do they have a treehouse where you can escape to and view game? Do they offer bushwalks included in their rate, or do you want a spa where you can enjoy a massage?
Some lodges, such as Tanda Tula Luxury Tented Camp offer Star Beds – The lodge drops you off with a picnic basket and bottle of wine, and sets up a treehouse style structure (overlooking a dam) ahead of time with mozzie nets and more. You are left there with a radio and your partner, and you are allowed to even sleep over there should you wish. Otherwise, you can easily enjoy an entire afternoon game viewing with your loved one in the romance of Africa.
7. Children friendly
If you are a family, a children friendly lodge is a must, as they offer all kinds of entertaining activities for your young ones.
On the other hand, if you are on a romantic getaway or a honeymoon, you may wish to inquire about a lodge with a more romance, less kids kind of vibe.
Once you have answered these questions, you should end up with a better idea of what kind of lodge you are looking for, and you can contact Jacqui to see which options would suit you best!
What exactly to pack for a safari is always a question we get asked frequently. But what are the absolute essentials?
It’s tough! Khaki? Camera and binocs? Extra lenses? Animal guide books? Bug spray? WHAT?
Over the past few years, I’ve have settled on my ‘must haves’ that I always carry with me when I head out on a lodge safari. Take a peek below at my TOP FOUR, and let me know if you think I should add something!
Always, always, ALWAYS. You don’t need a fancy one, I actually mostly use my phone camera or a small compact one. For the most part, especially in the Sabi Sands, you will be getting quite close to the wildlife, so you won’t desperately need a ‘close up’ lens. Also, if you are on a full vehicle, having sufficient space to store your extra lenses securely can be a bit hard to find. There are usually pockets on the back of the seats for you to use, but as the vehicle jumps around a lot, I wouldn’t want to store it in there!
Some might argue that this may not be a super essential, but I’ve found it really helps my guests to keep track of everything they’ve seen on safari. Some of the names of our wildlife can be very confusing – Bateleur? Klipspringer? Steenbok? And how on earth do you pronounce them?
Enter the handy notebook. Not only will this help you remember what you saw on your safari (and what photograph corresponds to it!) but it will also create a life long keepsake of your safari journey.
This is one that often slips under the radar. In summer, they serve an obvious purpose, but in winter – they help immensely to block out the cold wind that sometimes leaves your eyes streaming with water! Also, if you a cheeky nap overtakes you as you zoom out of the lodge, sunglasses are a great disguise…. Ask me how I know this, haha.
Yes, even if you are a man!
The sun can get extremely hot in the bush (up to 50 degrees in summer), and the wind can be excruciating on your lips in the winter if they are dry. I recommend popping a chapstick in your bag with SPF in it too, so you can keep your lips comfortable, enabling you to focus on your safari instead of your sore, chapped lips!
Dollar dollar BILLS!
I am just going to get right to the crux of it, team.
Your game ranger and your tracker really don’t get paid that much. I mean, of course it is all relative, so here’s a bit of background info.
Your game ranger will usually work either 4 weeks on, and 1 week off, or 6 weeks on and 2 weeks off. That’s a lot of work. The hours will be from around 4am (when they wake up to wake you up) to whatever time the guests go to bed if they are hosting. This can sometimes mean 20 hour days.
An average game ranger salary is between R3000 – R6000, a month, depending on the lodge they work at, their level of training, and their position (head guide? Junior guide?).
SO – they usually rely on tips to earn the majority of their income. This is where you come in.
One of the most frequent questions I get asked is exactly how much to tip – and who?!
To be honest, we’ve had a friend come back from his 6 weeks on at work with a fat R50,000 all from tips. We’ve had some friends come back with R500. We’ve even heard of rangers receiving brand new fancy cameras as a tip!
It all comes down to two important factors.
1. How much you think their service is worth
Did they go the extra mile for you; did you find their service about what their job description is? Did you have a special connection with them?
2. What your budget is
We usually give a general guideline of R250 per couple per day for the ranger, and R150 per couple per day for the tracker. Then, a further R150-R200 to split among the general staff (chef, barman, housekeeping etc). But again, it is dependent on what you believe they deserve. It can be much more, or much less than our guidelines,
We often also get asked about what currency is the best to tip in. ZAR. Definitely Rand. Why? Because otherwise your ranger/tracker/chef will have to pay a conversion fee to get your currency back to theirs.
How exactly do you tip? It can sometimes be awkward handing over a big pile of money, especially if there are other people around, or even worse – other employees around that may or may not be getting tipped too. We recommend bringing a few (say, 5) cards & envelopes from your home town. In here, you can write a sincere note to your ranger, tracker, or other special friend, and include their tip. Write their name on the front, your names on the back, and seal the envelope. From here, you can hand each one to the designated person. Not only do they receive their tip, but also a special card from a place they may never have been, seen, or heard of before!
So, there we have it!
Remember that your ranger makes the most of his livelihood from tipping – but also remember that he gets a salary too. Tipping is NOT compulsory, and how much you tip should reflect what you believe their service to be worth to you.
Do you have a question, or a niggle about your safari? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org I will do my best to help!